Got that warm feeling?

A condition called cerebellar ataxia is one manifestation of wheat’s effect on the human brain. This illness usually affects adults, average age of onset 48 years, though children can be affected, too. Symptoms consist of incoordination, falling . . . and incontinence.

The typical situation involves a man or woman in their late 40s or early 50s who begins to experience difficulty walking a straight line, or feels like they are drifting to one side. Frequent stumbling when there is no obstacle is common. This is due to degeneration of the cerebellum (visible on an MRI or CT scan of the brain), the part of the brain responsible for coordination and other (evolutionarily) primitive functions. Eventually, nervous system degeneration leads to impaired control over bladder function and the sufferer begins to wet him- or herself, i.e., incontinence.

This is a recently appreciated phenomenon with much of the work originating from Sheffield, England, the Mayo Clinic in the US, and China. See here, for instance.

There’s more to the effect of wheat on the human brain. Other phenomena include:
–Migraine
–Carpal tunnel syndrome
–Seizures–especially temporal-lobe seizures
–Myelitis–inflammation of the lining of the spinal cord
–Psychiatric disease–depression, changes in personality, even psychosis or paranoid delusions and auditory hallucinations
–Gait disorders–i.e., difficulty walking
–Impaired reflexes, e.g, in the ankles

Among the more recently described syndromes is gluten encephalopathy–dementia from wheat. The UK and US groups have described this condition. Because brain tissue has limited capacity for healing and regeneration, symptoms of cerebellar ataxia and other forms of wheat-induced neurologic degeneration usually improve slowly with meticulous elimination of wheat and other gluten sources.

Perhaps you’d like a diaper with that croissant?

This entry was posted in Gluten-free, Neurologic consequences of gluten. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Got that warm feeling?

  1. Curmujeon says:

    I have the occasional mis-step. Maybe once a day. Do you think that sleep apnea may be a contributing cause? I would think that apnea would also further limit healing and regeneration. I’ve gotten off of grains, mostly, for the last 11 months . I have the occasional piece of B-day cake or pizza. Just not in regular, every day diet. I am in the process of getting treatment for the apnea and a-fib. I appreciate all that you do, Dr. Davis.

  2. WereBear says:

    Posts like these make me miss wheat less and less.

    I, too, thought I was “getting away” with the occasional treat. Like once a month! But having ditched it completely, now I see, and feel, the difference.

  3. steve says:

    I don’t eat wheat etc because I have coeliac disease ( diagnosed by way of intestinal biopsy in1989). I now think that getting diagnosed with coeliac disease was a blessing In disguise. It would seem that wheat /gluten / gliadin is bad news for ‘normal’ people as well, not just coeliacs.
    SL

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Hi, Steve–
      Yes, absolutely. That is precisely the message I am trying to get out: There is more to wheat than gluten or celiac disease–plenty more.

      On the bright side, you are going to have lots more company searching for wheat- and gluten-free alternatives!

  4. Tanya Walker says:

    Would removal of wheat from the diet reverse or improve cerebellar ataxia? My dad was diagnosed several years ago and is now in a wheel chair because he keeps falling. Where can I find more information?
    He is also a type 2 diabetic.
    Thanks

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Hi, Tanya-

      Yes, it does. Sadly, brain tissue recovers very slowly and incompletely. If the underlying cause is wheat exposure, most though not all people improve. However, other aspects of health can improve, as you’d expect with removal of the offensive source.

  5. AllisonK says:

    Is the link to seizures(especially temporal lobe) caused by wheat itself alone, or more of a high carbohydrate issue? (probably both right?)
    I’ve cut wheat and all grains and sugars(hence cutting carbohydrates as well), and have drastically reduced the occurrence of both temporal lobe and tonic clonic seizures.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Wow, Allison! that’s great!

      No, it appears to be specifically due to wheat. While there is a ketogenic diet experience in seizures that works, I believe the evidence for temporal lobe calcification and seizures is strongest for wheat specifically. What might be interesting to know is whether there is a combined or synergistic effect of combining wheat elimination with low-carbohydrate approaches.

      • AllisonK says:

        That’s interesting because the last one I had was after a family function filled with pie and all sorts of baked goodies, and I indulged myself (a lot). But, up until this point I was blaming the sugars and lack of fat in my diet that day. My family is still a bunch of fat-o-phobes. I suppose I could retest it with a day of jelly-beans instead, but probably not a good idea.

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  7. Jennifer says:

    Dear Dr. Davis,
    I just bought your book read it in a day. Thanks for writing it. The area of neurological impact of wheat I find particularly interesting. Approximately 15 years ago I was diagnosed with MS. At that time my research indicated that individuals of Scottish ancestry had a greater chance of developing the disease. In addition I also noticed that celiac disease was also noted as being more prevalent in populations with Scottish ancestry. I believe that the statistics have shifted in recent years, at least for celiac disease. Although I understand that association does not necessarily indicate causation, have you considered if the negative impact of wheat on the brain could also impact MS. The progression of inflammatory responses and the autoimmune components appear similar in both MS and the neurological effects of wheat toxicity.

  8. Kay Saunders says:

    My son was diagnosed with Ataxia/Dysarthria – his only symptom being slurred speech. He has had blood work, MRI and CT scan as well as balance and coordination evaluations. It seems the only symptom he hass is slurred speech and they say he has genetic nerve damage in the cerebellum. I want him to cut out wheat in his diet but he doesn’t think that can help. What do you think about this?

  9. Belinda says:

    Dr. Davis~

    I just finished reading “Wheat Belly”–it took me <24 hours to read the whole thing because I was so…disgusted and upset. At points I wanted to just…scream–or cry. I see SO many…practically all…of my friends and family walking around with problems that are likely due to wheat (some w/multiple health issues and taking MULTIPLE prescription drugs). Yet, I bring up the concept of going wheat-free and I hear: "Oh, I could never live without my .”

    Really? REALLY???? Read this book and you will never want to purposely ingest wheat again!

    I was particulary disturbed by what it said in Wheat Belly about the effects on the brain, specifically cerebellar Purkinje cells. Is there truly nothing one can do to reverse the damage? I have an older relative I love very much who is I am CERTAIN (after reading the description in your book and doing a little more research online) suffering from damage to these cells . She started misstepping ~20 years ago (about age 50) and this has led to now falling and breaking bones *often* (also suffering from osteoporosis, and after reading Wheat Belly, know why). I don’t even want to get into the other issues (AGEs, small LDLs).

    Anyhow, thank you for your work, your book (and recipes…can’t wait to make the wheat-free pizza today!), your diligence on answering our questions on this blog, and your exposure of wheat for what it is. I have often said to people that there MUST be an explanation for the increase in the last 25 years of ADHD, autism, ED, dementia and obesity. I would never guessed it is WHEAT!

    I’ve been completely off wheat for a week–second attempt. First attempt I tried by “cutting back,” but after mindlessly eating 3 brownies one Sunday (which was followed by a rumbling stomach and fatigue), I knew I couldn’t go that route. Tho I am having some withdrawls, after reading Wheat Belly, withdrawls are minor compared to the list of potential problems I would be getting in line for. I do not want to “lose my mind” and have wheat be the culprit.

    Belinda

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Yes, be strong, Belinda. Big Food and Big Pharma are counting on your failure.

      This is a declaration of freedom from manipulation of the most base and widespread form ever witnessed in the history of humans on earth. Do not allow them to do this to you and your family.

  10. FLORENCE ANDERSON says:

    DR DAVIS..AT FIRST I WENT TO THE LIBRARY, THEY TOLD ME I WAS NO. 67 ON THE LIST ..I AM NOT SURE I WILL LIVE LONG ENOUGH FOR EVERYONE TO READ YOUR BOOK , SO I DECIDED TO BUY MY OWN..AND AM I GLAD I DID…SO FAR IVE LOST 25LBS AND AM WORRIED THAT MY BELLY STILL HASNT GONE FLAT..MAYBE MY AGE HAS SOME THING TO DO WITH IT , BUT I WILL KEEP ON TRYING..THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST IN ALL OF US .SINCERELY ..FLORENCE

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